I am not one to divulge traumatic experiences, especially when they are still raw and in the very recent past. However, I feel it is necessary to share with my readers one particular experience so that you will never have to go through it yourselves. Also, to give you a good laugh.
It was a lovely morning in Las Cruces, New Mexico. David and I had booked a couple nights in a guest suite at a bed & breakfast, which really was just a “bed.” But that’s a completely different story – ask me later. This suite featured a king sized bed, jet tub, kitchen, and patio. Up to the left of the property, there was a common area, including a large, open patio with an outdoor kitchen, fireplace, and fountain. Just inside the main building, guests could find the “breakfast room,” which contained a kitchenette with coffee, cereal, and a mostly-empty fridge (the description touted beer and soda for purchase, which was nowhere to be found). However, the night before, as we were looking for the pancake batter in the outdoor kitchen that was listed in the description, we found some half-gallon milk jugs in the outdoor refrigerators. The mixture inside resembled pre-mixed pancake batter, but *for the life of me, I wish I had a photo* the mixture had begun to separate. There was a 1-inch layer of transparent liquid at the top, and the rest of it was a beige-white color, with a little sliver of yellow between the two layers. David and I concluded, since we were the only guests at this 7-room “B&B,” that this must be pancake batter and it must be OLD.
So what do I do? OF COURSE I open the bottle and sniff what’s inside. It smells spoiled, like buttermilk that is 3 weeks past its expiration date. Oh, and it was CHUNKY. It looked and smelled nothing like pancake batter, so honestly, we had no idea what it was. I quickly shoved it back in the fridge and tried to get some fresh air.
Okay, back to the lovely morning in Las Cruces. I woke up before David, grabbed my phone and some coffee creamer, and walked up to the breakfast room to see if I could grab some cereal. I started a pot of coffee and poured a small bowl of raisin bran with some almond milk. As I am stepping outside to enjoy the patio, I run into the owner of the B&B, LaVerne. She’s an 84 year-old beauty with a surprisingly deep voice and very stylish leggings that she purchased for $7 on E-bay. She has flowing white hair, which was kept up in a clip, leaving a few wisps around her face. We made small talk, and I continued outside where I sat to enjoy my cold cereal and hot cuppa joe. About 5 minutes later, LaVerne steps outside and walks past me, down to the outdoor kitchen. She returns with a jug of the rotten buttermilk-ish drink. WHAT was she doing with it? When she passed by me again to go into the house, she said something unintelligible, so I turned and said “what?”
She responded, “Have you ever had Kefir?”
“No… what is it?” I inquired, concerned.
She promptly responds, “Oh, it’s fermented, raw milk.”
Nope. Never had it. It’s not what I wanted to learn about, and definitely worse than what we assumed was in those containers. Do you know why it’s worse? Because SHE DRINKS IT. She pours this inedible, spoiled concoction on oatmeal, in cereal, and even includes it in smoothies. “You’ve never tried it? It’s delicious. Here, I’ll bring you out a glass.”
My heart stopped. The liquid that I was so disgusted by previously is now being served to me with the full expectation that I will drink it.
A person in this situation has two options. The first is to respectfully decline. The option I chose instead is to be brave and try something new. Come on, Case. You’re all about new experiences, cultures (no pun intended), new food… So, politely, I tasted the cold beverage. I gently tilted the short glass around in a circle and stared at the massive clump that sat at the bottom of the glass, while the thick, creamy milk swirled around and around. I sniffed it a couple times, hoping that LaVerne’s statement of devotion would help me change my mind, though already made up, and that maybe – just maybe – there’s a chance I would enjoy the drink.
Have you ever tasted kefir? Kefir (also “kephir.” I know, because I Googled it.) is essentially cow, goat or sheep milk mixed with kefir grains. Kefir grains are a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY). It must be placed in a warm location in order to culture. Google says “culture until milk is slightly thickened and aroma is pleasant.” Note: the kefir I smelled was NOT pleasant. Nowhere even close to pleasant. Grains may grow (in the milk) to the size of walnuts. The product can be good for up to 30 days without refrigeration. W T actual F. This wikipedia page about it may help you never want to try it out for yourself.
I brought the rim up to my lips and let the smallest portion of kefir rush into my mouth. Friends, it tasted worse than it smelled. I can’t bring myself to describe the flavor, other than the overwhelming kick of acidity and the pungent taste and smell of the cultured dairy. I instantly gagged…. and again. I knew I couldn’t spit it out, and I had to swallow before the rancid milk would overtake me and my stomach would give way. I quickly swallowed and shoved a spoonful of raisin bran in my mouth to dispel the taste. I gagged more times than I can remember. I even OFFERED IT TO THE CAT and the cat WOULDN’T DRINK IT.
I felt violated. My stomach was betrayed. My tongue was defiled. And I was sitting there with nearly a full glass of kefir and no idea of what to do next. So I stood up and returned to my suite, leaving the glass on the table for LaVerne to discover. She later asked me what I thought – “It’s delicious, isn’t it?” I tried to respond politely but I. Can’t. Even.
Did You Know?
Other fermented milk products include but are not limited to:
I will never think of milk the same way again. I may never consume it again. Dairy products – sure, I’ll eat them. Coffee creamer? Yes. Cheese? Most definitely. But a single cup of cow’s milk? HECK NO. Not if it’s dehydrated, pasteurized, raw, fermented, plain, flavored (okay, maybe Darigold chocolate milk), or if it came out of a cow’s tit this second.
Nope, I’m done. Thanks, LaVerne, for sharing your culture (pun intended this time) and for destroying my faith in humanity and all that is good.
A traumatized Casey Hostetler.